Hanoi (AsiaNews/EDA) Hanoi's Cathedral will see Card Crescenzio Sepe ordain 57 new deacons on November 29. The announcement was made by the Hanoi Greater Regional Seminary, which has emphasised the historical significance of the event for it marks a changing trend in vocations and government policies.
After lean years, years of repression, vocations are on the rise again in northern Vietnam with would-be priests coming from eight northern dioceses: Bac Ninh (5), Bui Chu (7), Hanoi (13), Haiphong (3), Hung Hoa (5), Phat Diêm (9), Thai Binh (5), and Thanh Hoa (10).
In 1954, when the country split into northern and southern halves, many northern priests fled south with their parishioners. This left the north with very few priests at a time when the government started banning new seminaries and approved very few new ordinations.
Things started changing in the 1980s. The inter-diocesan seminaries of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City re-opened in 1987 followed the next year by those of Can Tho and Vinh. In 1992 it was the turn of Nha Trang and, in 1994, of Huê.
Initially the authorities allowed candidates to apply only every six years. In the 1990s, applications could be made very three years, and a few years later, every two years. The Hanoi seminary is allowed to admit candidates every year now.
The government did however retain the right to fix the number of applicants per seminary, but here too, the Hanoi institution received special treatment: till the 1990s, it could admit 50 candidates, a number that was later raised to 60. In 2004 the Religious Affairs Bureau set the number at 90.
Despite containing restrictions on the country's various religious communities, the recent Ordinance regarding Religious Belief and Religious Organisations (June 18, 2004) has made ordination easier since it no longer requires prior government approval.
Given the new situation, many priests who were ordained underground are gradually stepping out of the dark and acquiring official status.
As previously announced, Card Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will visit Vietnam from November 28 to December 6 on the invitation of the Bishops' Conference of Vietnam.